Sasha Daly

Thursday 24th October 2019

What is the Government’s Prevention Green Paper and what does it mean for young people with cancer?

Over the last few months, organisations and individuals have been responding to a Government consultation which asks how collectively we can prevent people becoming sick or give them the best possible health outcome.

The consultation looks at prevention of ill health across a range of conditions and age groups including smoking, sexual health, healthy eating and mental health. It also looks at cancer.

We’ve told the Government that all young people with cancer must have discussions with a health professional about fertility and sexual health, and have free & fair access to fertility treatment in line with NICE guidelines. They must also have access to mental health support during and after treatment to help prevent these issues occurring later in life. Read our response in full (pdf).

Does cancer treatment affect fertility?

Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery all are commonly used to treat cancer – they can all also affect a person’s fertility. For approximately 15 per cent of young people with cancer there is a high risk of future fertility problems.

Though many health professionals provide detailed information about the impact of treatment on fertility at diagnosis, 29 per cent of young people being treated for cancer have told us that they do not receive this information.

This is not acceptable and Teenage Cancer Trust are calling for every young person with cancer to have their fertility options explained to them by a health professional when they are diagnosed. Additionally, there must be fully funded access to cryopreservation (egg and sperm freezing) along with access to fertility services where needed.

What fertility preservation options are there?

If fertility treatment is opted for after conversations with a health professional, then it is possible to get eggs or sperm ‘frozen’, or cryopreserved.

Anyone concerned about how cancer treatment may affect fertility, should have a discussion with a nurse or doctor. Find out more about the questions to ask them.

What else do we recommend in our response?

  • Every young person with cancer must have their fertility options explained to them by a health professional
  • Fully funded access to cryopreservation (egg and sperm freezing) along with access to fertility services in accordance with NICE guidelines
  • Health professionals to talk to every young person about the impact cancer treatment can have on sexual activity
  • NHS England to endorse and support the roll-out of Teenage Cancer Trusts IAM Portal to support and improve teenage and young adult mental health
  • An extension to the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme to allow all 13 to 24 year old teenage boys and young men access to it via the NHS
  • The Department of Health and Social Care to prioritise funding research into why geographical inequalities exist in cancer care
  • Education provision for young people around how to maintain a healthy weight so as to reduce the risk of cancer developing in adulthood

What happens next?

Now that we’ve responded to the consultation we will wait to see what response is made. This is normally made available on the relevant Government Department website.

We will continue to talk about the issues that are important for young people with cancer with politicians and decision-makers so that their needs are included in any policy changes proposed. There is much to welcome from this focus on the prevention of ill-health and we want young people with cancer to have all the support they need to live their lives well during and after being treated for cancer.